The weather forecast was not encouraging today.
It would be more correct to say we hiked from Purchase Knob, home of the Appalachian Highland Science Learning Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Beth R. of Tampa led the group.
The day started out gray but the yellows, reds, green and even brown more than made up for the lack of brilliant sunshine.
We left the Science Center on the Cataloochee Divide Trail, which is the dividing line between the park on one side and private land on the other.
First we stopped to admire the view from Bill Woody’s cabin. If you look to the left of the cabin, you see the private road that allows the owner to get from his house to this tiny cabin.
Gooseberry Knob, at the Swag Resort, allowed us to feel like we were staying at this high-end luxurious mountain hotel.
Since the trail passes by the property, the owners, Deener and Dan Matthews, encourages hikers to stop and sit a while. And we did. See the picture at the top of this post.
Then the climb started to Hemphill Bald located at Cataloochee Ranch, a private dude ranch. The ranch is managed by the third generation of Alexanders.
To their credit, the owners have protected the property with a conservation easement. Though they can graze cattle and ride horses on the property, they can’t have developers put houses and condos on these high mountain knobs.
We came back down and took a short detour to a Native American Trail Marker Tree. The Cherokees bent back saplings to grow with a curve to indicate a trail marker – like our trail blazes but without the paint.
Here are Jack and Linda under the Trail Marker Tree.
By now, no one knows what “trail” the tree was supposed to mark.
After we returned to Purchase Knob, Ranger Paul Super gave us a short history of the Learning Center and its purpose. You can read more about the Learning Centers here.
Thanks, Beth, for leading the hike.
The next Friends of the Smokies hike will be on Tuesday, November 14 on the North Shore Road Loop. Sign up here.